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[02 December 2003]: Spectrum has developed a new, advanced and extensive range of CompactPCI and PXI board products. Using data transfer rate advantages of the PCI bus, but with a format in line with the needs of the industrial user, the new Compact PCI (cPCI) hardware produces systems that are very performance stable and robust. This extensive cPCI range is available in both industry standard 3 and 6U formats and ideal for multi board 19in rack systems for the factory, the research laboratory, or indeed anywhere where a standard PC needs to be remote or replaced by a robust embedded PC module inside the rack. Based on the CompactPCI 3U standard, the PXI range takes the advantages of the cPCI a step further by applying integrated triggering and timing signal lines for ease of synchronisation of multi board systems, without the need for further options. Where test and measurement is concerned a common frequency reference is usually vital, where for example one board is providing a test stimuli and another acquiring the result. With PXI this is a standard feature working through the backplane of the chassis. Care in the design of these products, in particular in relation to component choice and robust connectors has been done ensure a long and reliable operating lifetime. This close attention to design, (as already exemplified by the established Spectrum PCI range), is further enhanced by ensuring the end user has access to a wide range of software drivers for Windows and Linux. Whether the programmer uses code, or one of the optional drivers for LabView, Dasylab, FlexPro, Agilent VEE or Matlab, development time is greatly reduced with aid of included programming examples. All hardware also comes with a free display and programming package called SBench, for real time display, logging and signal analysis. Application areas for the Spectrum cPCI and PXI include: data communications, measurement and amplification, telecommunications, GPS, transportation, video and audio capture - to name but a few.

[14 October 2003]: Increasing digital speed and wider digital bit patterns have resulted in test and research engineers increasingly seeking hardware with ultra-high-speed bit capture and generation. The Spectrum Mi70 series from Dataquest Solutions has been designed to meet these requirements with speeds up to 125Msample/s and the capability to work with bit patterns arrangements up to 64bit wide. Alternatively, using an arrangement 2 x 32 or 4 x 16bit allows each 16 and 32bit section to be operated independently as an input or output, providing solutions for test pattern analysis in application areas such as semiconductor testing and telecommunications. To efficiently work with these data, a wide range of gating and triggering options are on hand to operate on data streaming to or from onboard memory (up to 512Mbyte may be fitted), or alternatively the PC RAM or hard drive. Synchronisation of this board to other boards in the Spectrum range is possible, including waveform generators and digitisers, all of which can be used with the Mi70 to produce a very capable test and measurement system. For the Mi70 and its counterparts, a wide set of drivers are available for Windows, DOS and Linux. Programming support extends to LabView, LabWindowsCVI, DasyLab, Agilent Vee and Matlab, plus popular text code environments.

[11 September 2003]: A vast range of PCI boards are available on the market for many types of applications, particularly for data acquisition and waveform generation. The downside is that when fitted inside a standard desktop PC they suffer from one particular drawback - portability. And although the notebook PC is a viable solution for mobile computing it lacks the interface for standard PCI hardware. There is at hand however a solution, with the addition of a PC-Card docking station. Dataquest Solutions offers a range of compact docking station enclosures, using the standard PC-Card (PCMCIA) connection on the notebook PC. Versions are available for half and full-length PCI boards, with all enclosures featuring internal forced air cooling and a supply option of 100-240V AC and 12V DC. Connection of a DC supply allows easy operation in the field, or within a vehicle, so opening possibilities to on site component testing, environmental monitoring at remote stations, engine performance work and portable high-speed arbitrary signal generation. One model even features the option of an internal rechargeable battery (12V 7Ah), making for a neat solution, where the docking station sits underneath the Notebook PC and just a single cable connection is required. The weight and size of the units depends on the model chosen, but as an example the half-length single-slot unit weighs in at just 0.8kg (excluding PCI board) and measures 220 x 180 x 45mm. All systems come complete with a wide range of drivers for Windows 9x, 98, Me, NT, 2000, XP and MacDos9.x.

[26 August 2003}: With an aggregate sample rate up to 200Msample/s, the MI30 series of PCI data acquisition boards provides a way to capture the extremely rapid signal events with excellent resolution. Capture at the highest speeds is performed direct to onboard memory, which on the MI30 is available up to 256 million samples. At speeds of tens of mega samples per second this onboard memory can be used in another way, as a very large circular buffer (FIFO mode). This allows PC to continuously transfer the data off the board direct to its memory (RAM), or indeed to the hard drive, while data processing proceeds and signal capture continues.All this performance is enhanced by several programmable trigger modes acting on input signal amplitude or gradient. Of particular note is a trigger option which looks at the signal amplitude over a user-defined period of time, ignoring multiple crossings of the trigger level and hence providing a way of rejecting false triggers caused by electrical noise. A separate connector is also provided on the MI30 for triggering off digital (TTL) signals, a popular method where the board is interfaced to bench instrumentation.The MI30 is available with one-, two- and four-channel configurations, each with a separate A/D converter to allow simultaneous capture and avoid the problems associated with timing skew between channels. To expand channel count multiple boards can be synchronised together. These can be of the same type, or combined with the Spectrum fast digital I/O and arbitrary waveform generator hardware, thus providing a very comprehensive test and analysis system. All Spectrum series hardware comes with free drivers for DOS/Windows 3.x, Windows 95/98, Windows NT/2000 and Linux. Documentation and source code examples are provided for Visual C, C++, Visual Basic, Delphi, LabView, DasyLab, Agilent VEE, LabWindowsCVI and Matlab.

[19 August 2003]: The Spectrum PCI ultra-high-speed board range pushes forward the boundaries of PC-based data acquisition and waveform generation.
With simultaneous capture across all signal channels and rates up to 500Msample/s, even the most demanding of applications can now be tackled. The Spectrum range also provides for arbitrary waveform generation and digital I/O, both of which can be synchronised with signal capture to provide a comprehensive high performance system. Application areas for such systems include ultrasonic testing, radar, spectroscopy, telecommunications, test signal and digital pattern generation - to name but a few. For many such applications portability is required. Using the Dataquest Solutions rugged PC with its integral screen and keyboard, or PCI docking station for the notebook computer, this portability comes available. Both these options will take full-length PCI boards and DC supply options for power, making them ideal both for use in the field, or for vehicle use and testing. Complementing all this performance and versatility comes a software system that is straightforward to use. Each board is shipped with SBench for Windows, a capable visualisation and analysis package. By using this software in combination with the functionality of a particular board, it is possible to produce a transient recorder, oscilloscope PC, arbitrary waveform generator, or even a logic analyser. Alternatively, Windows, DOS and Linux drivers provide the versatility of programming in code. Programming examples are provided to help speed system development. On request, drivers are also available for Matlab, LabView, Dasylab, LabWindowsCVI and Agilent-VEE.


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